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November 13, 2010
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/10/2010MindscapeKonamiKonami Tokyo1-22-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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PES 2010 is a pretty good looking game.
Some call it soccer, some call it football, but at the end of the day it's undeniably the world's most popular sport. And as you'd expect, over the years there have been countless soccer videogames to match; the early classics Kick Off and Sensible Soccer had a fought out rivalry, which has since been replaced by EA's FIFA series and Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer (PES, also known as the ‘Winning Eleven' series in Japan) titles. While FIFA has traditionally had better license support, and PES having more refined gameplay, another year has brought us new iterations of both series. Personally, I've found the sparkle and finish of the FIFA games has favourably tipped the scales for me in the past, but has sinking countless hours into the new features of Konami's latest efforts, PES 2011, helped convert me to the PES posse? Read on to find out.

With PES 2011, Konami has taken criticisms from earlier PES titles to heart and ripped away at the core of PES 2010, creating several new features for PES 2011. The passing mechanics are the first obvious change, where 360-degree passing has been implemented together with a shot stamina gauge to precisely land shots and passes. This ultimately offers a finer grain of ball control which has a longer learning curve, but is also more rewarding once you arrive at mastery. That said, holding true to previous PES titles, it's still not a simple and straightforward process to slot the ball in the back of the net; which is a good thing mind you, because that's the way soccer's meant to be.

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Stadiums too are quite detailed.
Game Management is an area which PES has traditionally held its own over FIFA, and this remains true for PES 2011. Player substitution is a simple drag-and-drop matter, swapping players from the bench onto the field, and the team style, formation and general attitude can all be controlled on the fly. Management edit is a further feature-plus for PES, which allows the play style of the team to be planned in advance for different periods of the game (down to 15 minute increments) depending upon whether your team is level, up or down. For instance if you're losing and it's the final 30 minutes of the second half, you may want to go an all-out attack, as compared to a defensive strategy if it's overtime and you're winning. All this can be established prior to the game, or updated on-the-fly if desired. Management edit is again drag-and-drop, so is not only a powerful strategic component of the game, but is also easy to use. Of course this can all be left to the AI coach if desired, particularly for newbies and more casual players.

Become a Legend mode is the typical sports ‘career' mode of PES 2011, where you begin as an individual player (with a defined position, skill set, etc) for a low ranking team, trying to progress and improve your skills and score a spot on your national team. An PSEye (or face scans on your PS3 Hard Drive) will let you literally put your face into the game too, with all the usual tweaks and sliders to ensure your body looks and moves as much like (or unlike) your real life counterpart as you desire. Matches in this mode take on a more ‘realistic' feel where you become a part of a team (rather than in control of the entire team), and while it's a little disheartening losing matches due to AI team-member mistakes, this mode definitely ups the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment for a win when playing online.

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PES 2010 in-game screenshot.
PES 2011's Master League mode is similar to Become a Legend, but one level higher; playing as an entire team, (with the added option of it being online against other people, and also trading against others too). It's very dynamic and seamlessly matches up with the general PES community's thoughts and flavours-of-the day. For instance, player values which you sign up are based upon the market values which fluctuate depending upon how many other PES players worldwide are signing up that player. As such, you'll have to play afew games before you can sign some decent (and hence more popular) players; this encourages people to really sink hours into the game to get the most out of it; and for soccer fans, that won't be an issue.

And as if these countless game modes of PES 2011 weren't enough to keep you amused, the concept of game points has returned; experience points that are earned depending on how well you play. These can then be cashed in for everything from novelty soccer balls and jack-o-lantern heads for your players, to more serious bonuses such as extra parts for the create-a-stadium mode, or classic player packs from yesteryear.

So, as for the inevitable FIFA 11 vs PES 2011 pick that I'm sure you're all hanging out for, in a nutshell let's just say that there's still no absolute winner one way or the other. While PES overall feels much tighter in terms of passing, dribbling and general in-game ball control as well as team management, it still lacks the complete sparkle and polish that inevitably comes with (larger budget) EA Sports titles.

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Looking at the team line-up.
When zoomed out, PES 2011 borders on looking as good as a real-life soccer telecast; the lighting is great, and the movement of players, the ball and the net are fluid and continuous, with very few awkward transitions between animations. Zooming in a little closer reveals that these transitions are still fluid through slow motion replays (which also have an added touch of motion blur to complete the look). A minor bugbear of mine is that the stadium advertising billboards only have actual ads for Champions League mode matches, and revert to generic Konami advertising for the remainder of matches. It sucks away at the overall immersion of the game, but I guess it's understandable (yet unfortunate) due to licensing issues.

Up close, PES 2011's players don't look quite up to scratch to the FIFA counterparts, and they come across with almost a generic create-a-player feel to all of them (and all have such dark eyes and neck shadowing), as compared to more photorealistic faces that you'd encounter in other sports titles, like NBA or UFC for instance. The team strips are heavily detailed however, even down to how tight and loose player shirts are, and where licensing hurdles may have kept some strips from the game, they're easily added through updates via the PES community (which has always been a strong point for the series since its initial Winning Eleven titles on the first Playstation).

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PES 2010 is out now on PS3.
In the audio department, PES 2011's commentary is not quite up to scratch to FIFA 2011 unfortunately, even with the addition of Jim Beglin who soccer fans might recognise from ITV broadcasts. Quite often he'll butt in with oddly unrelated (or unsurprising) remarks where he'd have been better off keeping quiet. General ambience, including crown reactions, cheers and chants are a little behind what FIFA has to offer, but are still of a high standard nonetheless. Several of the major Premier League teams (Manchester United for instance) have their own custom chants which is a nice touch, though the majority of teams revert back to generic hooligan singing.

I'll admit that PES 2011 has been an experienced for a hardened FIFA nut like myself, and I've got to say I'm a convert for what it's got to offer. Perhaps bisn't the sort of game that you'd show your friends in 5 minutes to showcase how good soccer can look on the PS3. But, if they're willing to sit down for a few hours and take the game's challenging yet rewarding gameplay in, there's little chance they won't become a Pro-Evo convert also. With the loads of game modes to conquer, plus the very competent online game modes, there's plenty of PES to be had here to last you well into 2012's inevitable release.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSFluid and slick animations, but slightly generic face models.
SOUNDCommentary is a bit of a let-down, but has a great ambience.
GAMEPLAYAddictive, rewarding, and far more deeper tactically than just kicking the round thing around on the green stuff.
VALUEThe online modes add loads of life and replayability.
OVERALLSettle the FIFA vs PES fanboyisms, there's room for both soccer games in your collection, as PES fills in the tactical and managerial holes of FIFA's latest. That said, PES 2011 is a great game on its own, and even though it's lacking the licenses that EA has thrown buckets of money at, it makes up for it on the pitch.

Talk about PES 2011 in this forum topic now.